[ in-kyuh-beyt, ing- ]
See synonyms for: incubateincubatedincubating on

verb (used with object),in·cu·bat·ed, in·cu·bat·ing.
  1. to sit upon (eggs) for the purpose of hatching.

  2. to hatch (eggs), as by sitting upon them or by artificial heat.

  1. to maintain at a favorable temperature and in other conditions promoting development, as cultures of bacteria or prematurely born infants.

  2. to develop or produce as if by hatching; give form to: His brain was incubating schemes for raising money.

verb (used without object),in·cu·bat·ed, in·cu·bat·ing.
  1. to sit upon eggs.

  2. to undergo incubation.

  1. to develop; grow; take form: A plan was slowly incubating in her mind.

Origin of incubate

First recorded in 1635–45; from Latin incubātus, past participle of incubāre “to lie or recline on, to sit on (eggs),” equivalent to in- “in” + cub(āre) “to sit, lie down” + -ātus past participle suffix; see in-2, -ate1. Cf. incumbent, concubine

Other words from incubate

  • in·cu·ba·tive, adjective
  • un·in·cu·bat·ed, adjective

Words Nearby incubate Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use incubate in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for incubate


/ (ˈɪnkjʊˌbeɪt) /

  1. (of birds) to supply (eggs) with heat for their development, esp by sitting on them

  2. to cause (eggs, embryos, bacteria, etc) to develop, esp in an incubator or culture medium

  1. (intr) (of eggs, embryos, bacteria, etc) to develop in favourable conditions, esp in an incubator

  2. (intr) (of disease germs) to remain inactive in an animal or human before causing disease

  3. to develop or cause to develop gradually; foment or be fomented

Origin of incubate

C18: from Latin incubāre to lie upon, hatch, from in- ² + cubāre to lie down

Derived forms of incubate

  • incubation, noun
  • incubational, adjective
  • incubative or incubatory, adjective

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012